We’re primed for a dogfight – Van Heerden

‘Being at the (Springbok) alignment camp was great, and I came out of it more motivated than ever,’ said Stormers lock Ruben van Heerden. | BackpagePix

‘Being at the (Springbok) alignment camp was great, and I came out of it more motivated than ever,’ said Stormers lock Ruben van Heerden. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 24, 2024


THERE will be two desperate teams running out at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (7.05pm kick-off), but who will want it more between the Stormers and Leinster?

The sixth-placed Stormers are coming off a disappointing 27-21 defeat to the Ospreys in Cape Town last weekend, and are in danger of dropping out of the top eight play-off spots with just four league rounds to go.

John Dobson’s team is on 40 points, but with the Lions in 11th, on 39, the log could look very different after this weekend’s fixtures.

Irish giants Leinster are still at the top of the standings on 54 points, but suffered a 44-12 loss at the hands of the Lions at the weekend, and will drop down to second if they lose in Cape Town and Glasgow (53) beat lowly Zebre in Italy.

The Stormers, though, produced arguably their worst display of the season against the Ospreys, so are expecting to be significantly better on Saturday.

“Leinster will be hurting after their loss against the Lions,” Stormers lock Ruben van Heerden told the team website yesterday. “They are going to want to rectify things that they got wrong, but so will we. We want to make things right.

“It builds up to quite a dogfight, and the best way to gain an edge on them, because they’re such a quality outfit, is to not give them any breathing space. From the start, we’re going to have to be over them, whether that’s in the set pieces, defence or attack, and that comes down to the team that executes the best on the day.

“It’s going to come down to small margins and the team that wants it more, and it’s definitely going to be a titanic match and a very important game for our season. We’re looking forward to it and embracing the challenge.”

Van Heerden – who was invited to the recent Springbok alignment camp – has quickly become a line-out stalwart for the Cape outfit since his move from the Exeter Chiefs last season, and having come off the bench against the Ospreys, he is likely to be reinstated in the No 5 jersey against Leinster. He will hope to have his regular lock partner Salmaan Moerat back as well.

The same goes for flank Ben-Jason Dixon, with defence coach Norman Laker saying yesterday that the duo have completed their return-to-play protocols and were training with the team this week.

“Being at the alignment camp was great, and I came out of it more motivated than ever. It was great for me, seeing what the environment is like and learning what they’re looking for as a player,” Van Heerden said.

“My progression as a five lock has been good and again I’d like to credit (Stormers forwards coach) Rito Hlungwani so much in regards to that. He is really my mentor in the line-outs, and has been helping me a lot.

“So, my focus is just to keep building and getting better and learning as much as I can. You can never stop learning.”

The Stormers were guilty of a number of unforced errors against the Ospreys, with Dobson even calling them “loose” at times. But while they are renowned for their attacking approach, Van Heerden has called on his team to cut out the mistakes against Leinster.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we bounce back as a team, and as a forward pack this week. We have certain standards that we’ve set for ourselves, and last week, we slipped up. It sounds clichéd, but the only way to get over losing is by winning,” the 26-year-old second-rower said.